Genesis cover

Want to learn the inside story of the Apollo lunar landing, now celebrating its 50th anniversary? Genesis: the Story of Apollo 8, Robert Zimmerman's classic history of humanity's first journey to another world, tells that story, and it is now available as both an ebook and an audiobook, both with a foreword by Valerie Anders and a new introduction by Robert Zimmerman.

 
The ebook is available everywhere for $5.99 (before discount) at amazon, Barnes & Noble, all ebook vendors, or direct from my ebook publisher, ebookit.

 
The audiobook is also available at all these vendors, and is also free with a 30-day trial membership to Audible.
 

"Not simply about one mission, [Genesis] is also the history of America's quest for the moon... Zimmerman has done a masterful job of tying disparate events together into a solid account of one of America's greatest human triumphs." --San Antonio Express-News

 

Scroll down for new updates.

Storms on Jupiter

Storms on Jupiter
Click for full resolution image.

The image on the right, reduced to post here, was created by Citizen scientist Kevin Gill from recent Juno images taken of Jupiter, and shows in detail some of the many storms that fill Jupiter’s many bands of color.

We do not have a scale, but my guess is that these storms are probably about the size of the Earth, which means these storms are bigger than any hurricane you can imagine. If you click on the image to look at the full resolution photograph, you can see there are tiny white clouds clumped in the middle of the picture’s three biggest storms. Those clumps are probably also bigger than any single clouds you could find anywhere on Earth.

As I wrote in a post in April 2017 about a similar Juno image:

What should fill us with even more awe is that this only covers a very thin slice of the top of Jupiter’s deep atmosphere. The planet itself is about 89,000 miles in diameter, more than ten times larger than Earth. The depth of its atmosphere is not really known, but it must be deeper than several Earths, piled on top of each other. In that depth there must be many atmospheric layers, each thicker and denser than the one above, and each with its own weather systems and complexities.

It will take centuries of research, including the development of new engineering capable of accessing this place, to even begin to map out its meteorology. And this is only one gas giant, of what we now know must be millions and millions throughout the galaxy.

If we have the nerve and daring, the human race has the opportunity to go out there and never be bored. There will always be something unknown to discover.

All that still applies. We have only just begun our journey exploring the universe.

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Mitsubishi IDs cause of launchpad fire, reschedules launch

Mitsubishi, the Japanese company that builds the H-2B rocket for Japan’s space agency JAXA, has identified the cause of the dramatic launchpad fire that broke out only about three hours before the launch of their HTV unmanned ISS cargo freighter.

MHI announced Friday that officials believe the fire started near an “exit hole” on the mobile launch platform. Investigators believe the blaze was most likely caused by static electricity, and exacerbated by a flammable oxygen-rich environment inside the mobile launch platform.

Low winds at Tanegashima during the Sept. 10 countdown allowed oxygen vapors to build up at the launch pad in higher concentrations than previous countdowns, officials said. Super-cold oxygen is used as an oxidizer in both stages of the H-2B rocket, and also flows through the first stage’s twin LE-7A main engines during pre-launch “chilldown” conditioning procedures.

“As a result of the investigation, it was confirmed that there was a high possibility that the fire spread due to the static electricity generated by the oxygen dripping from the engine exhaust port during the propellant filling operation, which continued to blow on the heat-resistant material in the exit hole at the movable launch pad,” MHI said in a statement. “We have taken corrective measures and have confirmed normal functioning of the rocket and facility,” MHI said.

They have rescheduled the launch for September 26. Initially they were aiming for September 24, but rescheduled because there might be an orbital conflict between their rocket’s second stage and the launch of a Soyuz to ISS that same day.

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Pioneer cover

From the press release: From the moment he is handed a possibility of making the first alien contact, Saunders Maxwell decides he will do it, even if doing so takes him through hell and back.

 
Unfortunately, that is exactly where that journey takes him.

 
The vision that Zimmerman paints of vibrant human colonies on the Moon, Mars, the asteroids, and beyond, indomitably fighting the harsh lifeless environment of space to build new societies, captures perfectly the emerging space race we see today.


He also captures in Pioneer the heart of the human spirit, willing to push forward no matter the odds, no matter the cost. It is that spirit that will make the exploration of the heavens possible, forever, into the never-ending future.

 
Available everywhere for $3.99 (before discount) at amazon, Barnes & Noble, all ebook vendors, or direct from the ebook publisher, ebookit.

Fred Astaire & Ginger Rogers – They Can’t Take That Away From Me

An evening pause: Another movie pause tonight, this time showing the films themselves. This clip includes two performances of this song, from two different Astaire & Rogers films. The first, from Shall We Dance? (1937), has Astaire singing the song, knowing that the Rogers character is leaving him. Of course she ends up not going.

The second clip is from The Barkleys of Broadway (1949), their last film together and done after a split of ten years. They knew then this would be their last film, and now the words have a meaning far greater than the story in the film. When they exit at the end of this song, they know it is pretty much for the last time.

Hat tip to Phil Berardelli, author of Phil’s Favorite 500: Loves of a Moviegoing Lifetime.

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Climate forum disrupted by screaming protesters

They’re coming for you next: A climate forum set up by the Republican club at Georgetown University College was so disrupted by screaming protesters that the police had to clear the room.

At the start of “Climate Forum: A Rebuttal,” protestors packed the room and, beginning with the introduction of the first speaker, shouted talking points, various obscenities, and hostile chants.

Despite campus free speech policies announced clearly by the hosts at the start of the event, the harassment continued. Amid the frequent disruptions, a protester dressed as a clown intermittently honked a horn.

The College Republicans called campus police, who tried to remove those interrupting the event, but the students refused to comply. They argued with the officers, refused to show the officers their student IDs, and declared the room an “open forum.”

Eventually, police had to clear the room entirely in an attempt to gain control of the situation. The hallway flooded with protestors — as well as students who appeared genuinely interested in listening to the panelists. Numerous campus administrators and even more officers arrived as the event remained postponed.

The panel finally restarted after police had blocked all but one doorway and refused entrance to anyone with signs. But some hecklers made it through, including one protester who had to be escorted out, but not before ensuring all attendees they are “on the wrong side of history.”

Note also that prior to the event and before they had heard anything, the Georgetown Democratic club condemned the forum,

Let us summarize what this event has taught us:

1. Those who believe in global warming are so close-minded that they are entirely unwilling to listen to another perspective.

2. Those who believe in global warming are so close-minded that they are determined to prevent anyone else from hearing another perspective.

3. Those who believe in global warming are so close-minded that they are determined to prevent anyone with a different perspective from speaking.

4. Those who believe in global warming are even willing to commit acts of violence to enforce numbers 2 and 3 above.

5. Law enforcement and the college administration at Georgetown are terrified of these protesters, and are unwilling to do anything to enforce the law and prevent those protesters from doing numbers 2, 3, and 4.

None of these lessons are very hopeful, because eventually this behavior will routinely lead to violence and possible death. In fact, it already has nearly done so in a number of places, such as the shooting at a Republican congressional baseball practice in Washington in 2017, and the routine violence in Portland whenever conservatives try to publicly demonstrate.

And it is why we got Trump, because unlike the police and administrators at Georgetown, Trump does not bow to this kind of childish and close-minded behavior. He fights back.

Finally, in what way do these protesters think they are going to persuade anyone to their perspective, with this kind of behavior?

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Leaving Earth cover

In March I obtained from my former publisher the last 30 copies of the now out-of-print hardback of Leaving Earth. I quickly sold 10, and with only 20 left in stock I am raising the price. To get your own autographed copy of this rare collector's item please send a $75 check (which includes $5 shipping) payable to Robert Zimmerman to
 

Behind The Black, c/o Robert Zimmerman
P.O.Box 1262
Cortaro, AZ 85652
 

I will likely raise the price again when only ten books are left, so buy them now at this price while you still can!


  Also available as an inexpensive ebook!
 

Leaving Earth: Space Stations, Rival Superpowers, and the Quest for Interplanetary Travel, is now available as an ebook everywhere for only $3.99 (before discount) at amazon, Barnes & Noble, all ebook vendors, or direct from my ebook publisher, ebookit.

 


Winner of the 2003 Eugene M. Emme Award of the American Astronautical Society.

"Leaving Earth is one of the best and certainly the most comprehensive summary of our drive into space that I have ever read. It will be invaluable to future scholars because it will tell them how the next chapter of human history opened." -- Arthur C. Clarke

Cave pits in the Martian northern lowlands

New pits in Hephaestus Planitia

I could call this my monthly Martian Pit update. Since November 2018 I have each month found from two to five new and interesting cave pits in the monthly download of new images from the high resolution camera on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO). My previous posts:

All except the last August 12 post were for pits on the flanks of Arsia Mons, the southernmost in the line of three giant volcanoes to the southeast of Olympus Mons, and were thus almost certainly resulting from lava flows.

The August 12 post instead showed pits found in Utopia Planitia, one of the large plains that comprise the Martian northern lowlands where scientists think an intermittent ocean might have once existed. All of these pits are found in a region of meandering canyons dubbed Hephaestus Fossae.

In the most recent MRO release scientists once again focused on the pits in or near Hephaetus, imaging four pits, two of which have been imaged previously, as shown in my August post and labeled #2 and #4 in this article, and two (here and here) that appear new. The image on the right, cropped to post here, shows the two new pits, dubbed #1 and #3. In the full image of #1, it is clear that this pit lines up nicely with some other less prominent depressions, suggesting an underground cave. Pit #3 however is more puzzling. In the full image, this pit actually runs perpendicular to a long depression to the west. There are also no other related features around it.

What makes all four of these pits intriguing is their relationship to Hephaestus Fossae and a neighboring rill-like canyon dubbed Hebrus Valles, as shown in the overview map below.
» Read more

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Boeing pushing to kill Gateway for more SLS funds?

Turf war! According to Eric Berger at Ars Technica today, the House hearings yesterday about Gateway and the Trump effort to complete a manned mission to the Moon by 2024 suggest that Boeing is lobbying to kill both Gateway as well as NASA’s effort to use multiple commercial rockets, in order to get its SLS rocket more funding.

Essentially, Boeing is getting almost no contracts in connection to Gateway. Furthermore, the much cheaper commercial rockets are a serious competitive threat to its SLS rocket. However, if Gateway was dropped and the money instead committed to building a more powerful upper stage for SLS, which is Boeing’s baby, the money would go to them. Moreover, doing this would make it unnecessary for NASA to use other commercial rockets, since SLS could do it all.

Berger’s analysis seems right on target. While Gateway is a bad idea, what Boeing proposes instead would be no better. As Berger notes,

What was surprising is that [lawmakers] at the hearing also appeared to be swayed by [Boeing’s] view that bypassing commercial rockets and the Gateway would lead to a simpler and faster lunar mission. “I believe there is value in developing commercial capabilities,” [one lawmaker] said toward the end of the hearing. However, she added, “I am concerned that the decisions are not being driven by what is most efficient or effective and what is most cost efficient.”

This is an interesting viewpoint given that commercial rockets cost $100 to $200 million, at most, versus the $1 billion to $2 billion cost of a single SLS rocket—not including the hundreds of millions of dollars, at a minimum, the agency would have to invest in Exploration Upper Stage development contracts with Boeing. Moreover, one of the commercial rockets—the Falcon Heavy—already exists and has flown three successful missions. Other boosters, including Blue Origin’s powerful New Glenn rocket, should be ready to fly in two or three years. An SLS rocket with the better upper stage almost certainly wouldn’t be ready by 2024, and NASA knows this.

“At this point, there is no path by which the Exploration Upper Stage will be ready for Artemis 3 in 2024,” the NASA administration source told Ars. “Hence, it is not in the critical path (for the Moon landing).”

This lobbying effort provides us a perfect illustration of the overall incompetence and corruption that permeates our government in Washington. No one there appears the slightest bit interested in serving the national interest. Instead, the focus is on how they can get politicians to give them money.

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Readers!
 
For many reasons, mostly political but partly ethical, I do not use Google, Facebook, Twitter. They practice corrupt business policies, while targeting conservative websites for censoring, facts repeatedly confirmed by news stories and by my sense that Facebook has taken action to prevent my readers from recommending Behind the Black to their friends.
 
Thus, I must have your direct support to keep this webpage alive. Not only does the money pay the bills, it gives me the freedom to speak honestly about science and culture, instead of being forced to write it as others demand.

 

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Russia and China to team up on lunar lander/orbiter missions

Russia and China have signed an agreement to cooperate on several future lunar lander and orbiter unmanned missions.

The agreements will see cooperation in Russia’s Luna-26 orbiter spacecraft and Chang’e-7 polar landing mission, according to Roscosmos, which could involve contributions of science payloads to the respective spacecraft. Both missions are currently scheduled for the early-to-mid 2020s.

The two sides also committed to previously announced plans to create a joint lunar and deep space data center, which will consist of hubs in both Russia and China.

How they will specifically cooperate on those specific space missions was not made clear. From what I can gather, the real heart of this agreement are those joint data centers for both missions.

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Bridenstine will ask Russia for explanation about drill hole

NASA’s administrator Jim Bridenstine, when asked by journalists about the decision by Russia to keep secret the origins of the drill hole in a Soyuz capsule that caused a leak on ISS, said he will politely beg Russia for some answers.

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine vowed Thursday to speak to the head of the Russian space agency after reports that the cause of a hole found on the International Space Station last year would be kept secret.

But he was careful to point out that he doesn’t want this situation to destroy the country’s relationship with Russia, a partner in space since 1975. “They have not told me anything,” Bridenstine told the Houston Chronicle during a question and answer session at a Houston energy conference. “I don’t want to let one item set (the relationship) back, but it is clearly not acceptable that there are holes in the International Space Station.”

Sure, let’s not offend those Russians so we can keep flying Americans on their capsules, even though they won’t tell us who drilled a hole in a Soyuz capsule prior to launch, then patched it badly so that it began leaking after a few months in space.

This kind of logic could only make sense in Washington government circles.

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Senate appropriations bill slams new commercial space regulations

In releasing its report yesterday on the Senate’s appropriations bill for transportation and housing, the Senate appropriations committee has demanded the FAA’s review and revise its proposed new regulations for commercial space, intended originally to streamline the red-tape but instead increased it. From their report:

Prior to drafting the rulemaking, the FAA convened an Aviation Rulemaking Committee [ARC] consisting of both traditional and emerging commercial space companies. However, the draft rule does not include relevant language approved by a majority of ARC members, and as a result, the proposed rule fails to implement a streamlined and performance based approach to regulating an industry whose continued growth and innovation is critical to national security and civilian space exploration. The draft rule creates unnecessary barriers to entry for new companies, may prevent many operators from achieving or maintaining flight rates and cost efficiencies to support new space applications and markets, and fails to address the application of the regulations to future space port locations. The Committee encourages the FAA to reconvene the Streamlined Launch and Reentry Licensing Requirements ARC and consider a supplemental NPRM prior to issuing a final rule in order to meet an artificial deadline. [emphasis mine]

It appears the FAA has agreed to review the regulations, as demanded.

I found it amusing that the entire appropriations bill is dubbed THUD, for “Transportation/Housing and Urban Development”. Though this acronym choice had nothing to do with the FAA’s space regulation debacle, it certainly seems most appropriate.

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ESA asks NASA’s help on ExoMars rover parachute problems

The European Space Agency (ESA) has asked for help from NASA in trying to figure out the cause of the failures during testing of the parachutes they want to use to safely land their ExoMars 2020 rover, Rosalind Franklin.

So far the parachutes have been damaged on all previous tests. They plan two more tests in December and February.

Both tests, to be held at high altitude to simulate the Martian atmosphere, need to succeed in order for the parachutes to pass qualification. TheExoMars mission faces a final review scheduled April 2020, Francois Spoto, ExoMars program manager, told SpaceNews. “Now the situation is critical, of course, because we have limited time and no margin,” Spoto says.

If one of the tests fails, the ExoMars mission will miss the narrow July 25 to Aug. 13 launch window next year and slip to the next window, in late 2022. The lander and rover segments are meanwhile progressing well and ready for environmental testing.

They held a workshop on the previous failures, and obtained new analysis of the causes from JPL engineers.

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Progress on Dragon parachute tests

It appears that SpaceX’s parachute testing for its Dragon manned capsule is finally satisfying the concerns of NASA and its safety panel, based on a Sept 17 NASA blog post.

In fact, SpaceX’s success has even forced NASA “to reevaluate its own [parachute] standards and certification processes.”

The article at the link also notes quite correctly NASA’s tendency to miss the forest for the trees, which is why it has forced SpaceX to do so much additional parachute testing, even though the company apparently had a solid understanding of its parachutes a long time ago.

[T]he space agency has been focused on parachutes and COPVs [the tank issues that caused the 2016 launchpad explosion] for years. This is primarily a result of NASA’s notoriously reactive approach to safety: SpaceX suffered two COPV-related Falcon 9 failures in 2015 and 2016 and has experienced an unknown number (likely 1-3) of anomalies during Crew Dragon parachute testing.

As a result, NASA has focused extensively on these two stand-out concerns. To an extent, this is reasonable – if you know things have a tendency to fail, you’re going to want to make sure that they don’t. However, prioritizing reactive safety measures at the cost of proactive safety would be a major risk, akin to getting in a car crash because you didn’t use a turn signal and then prioritizing turn signal use so much that you forget to look both ways before making turns. Sure, you will probably never get in the same crash, but you are raising the risk of new kinds of accidents if you overcorrect your attention distribution.

Either way, it increasingly appears that a manned Dragon mission might finally be getting close to launch.

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Yutu-2’s first close look at mysterious “gel-like” material

gel-like?
Click for full image.

Chinese scientists have released images showing their approach and first look at the mysterious “gel-like material they spotted inside a small crater using their lunar rover Yutu-2, presently exploring an area on the far side of the Moon.

The image to the right, cropped and expanded to post here, focuses on that location. As much as we might wish it, the rectangle is not the monolith from 2001, a Space Odyssey. It is merely a section where it appears they increased the exposure to see more details in the shadows. Also, as noted at the webpage:

The compressed, black-and-white shot comes from an obstacle-avoidance camera on the rover. The green, rectangular area and red circle within are suspected to be related to the field of view of the Visible and Near-Infrared Spectrometer (VNIS) instrument, rather than the subject matter itself, according to some lunar scientists.

Apparently they were unsatisfied with the data from this viewpoint, and moved the rover to get a second better view. The results from that second location however have not been released.

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Yang: Private car ownership must end

They’re coming for you next: In a climate forum at Georgetown University today, Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang proposed the government eliminate the private ownership of cars, and replace it with a “constant roving fleet of electric cars that you would just order up.”

Of course, this fascist Democrat doesn’t mention that, according to his own climate plan it would be the government creating and operating that fleet of cars.

Just imagine having to depend on the DMV for your actual transportation. Right now it is generally bad enough, especially in the Democratic-controlled big urban cities, to just get your driver’s license renewed. Won’t it be just wonderful when you have to call them to provide you your car?

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Io’s shadow on Jupiter

Io's shadow on Jupiter
Click for full image.

Citizen scientists Kevin Gill and Tanya Oleksuik have used raw images from Juno to create several really cool images of the eclipse shadow of Io moving across the face of Jupiter. The image above, by Gill, is what I think is the most dramatic. The other images are here, here, here, here, and here.

Oleksuik notes that the colors are not true, and are enhanced for drama. Also, the shadow in many of the images are much too large relative to the globe of Jupiter. The last link above gives a better sense of the true size of that shadow against Jupiter’s giant sphere. Io’s shadow only covers a tiny part of the surface. The reason it appears larger is that the whole image does not see the entire hemisphere.

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Problems fixed with next Russian ISS module

According to a report from Russia today, the problems with contamination in the fuel tanks for Russia’s next module to ISS, originally scheduled for launch in 2013, have finally been dealt with, and the launch can go forward.

“Original tanks will be used. They had successfully undergone all trials, all problems with them have been fixed. We are now receiving relevant documents,” one of the sources told TASS. He said the module is currently at the Khrunichev center, and the timeframe of finishing touches to it is now being coordinated.

Another source in the industry told TASS that although Nauka tanks were initially designed for multiple use, “they will be used only once – for the module’s docking with the space station.”

In other words, they weighed their options, and decided that limiting the tanks to only one use was better than trying to replace them. I suspect this is because the replacement was both very difficult and would have also delayed the launch so much that ISS might not have been orbit any longer.

A new launch date has not been announced. Previously Roscosmos had indicated 2020 as the date.

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Starlink satellite launches to dominate SpaceX’s 2020 launch schedule

According to statements made by an SpaceX official on September 10, in 2020 the bulk of all the company’s launches will be to launch satellites in its Starlink internet constellation.

SpaceX plans as many as 24 launches next year to build out the company’s Starlink network to provide broadband Internet service from space, following up to four more Starlink missions before the end of this year, according to SpaceX’s chief operating officer.

The rapid-fire launch cadence for SpaceX’s Starlink fleet will take up the majority of the company’s launch manifest next year with a series of missions taking off from Florida’s Space Coast, adding new nodes to a network that could eventually contain nearly 12,000 small satellites.

If they complete this schedule, then SpaceX could complete as many as 40 launches in 2020, when all its other backlogged launches are included.

At the same time, this schedule indicates the slowdown in the launch of geosynchronous satellites, as predicted by many in the launch business. The communications industry appears to be shifting to lower orbit constellations and smaller satellites, as illustrated by Starlink itself.

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LRO fails to spot Vikram on Moon

Despite successfully taking high resolution images of the area on the Moon where it is thought India’s Vikram crash-landed two weeks ago, the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) science team has been unable to identify it in those images.

LRO’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera instrument, or LROC, imaged the intended south pole touchdown site for the lander, which is called Vikram, as planned yesterday (Sept. 17), Aviation Week’s Mark Carreau reported. But “long shadows in the area may be obscuring the silent lunar explorer,” Carreau wrote.

“It was near dusk as the region prepares to transition from a two-week lunar day to an equally long lunar night, so shadows covered much of the region, and Vikram may not be in the LROC’s field of view,” Carreau wrote, citing a NASA statement.

This means that they will simply have to try again during a later orbit. Eventually the lighting conditions will be right, and LRO will photograph Vikram.

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House hearing, and budget, raises doubts about 2024 Moon landing

Two events yesterday increased the likelihood that the Trump administration’s effort to complete a manned Moon landing by 2024 will not happen.

First, at hearings yesterday before the House Science, Space, and Technology (SS&T) Committee, not only did a top NASA official express skepticism about the 2024 date, several key Democratic lawmakers added their own skepticism about the entire project.

Then, the Democratically-controlled House released a draft continuing resolution which included none of the extra $1.6 billion requested by the Trump administration for the 2024 Moon mission.

At the first link there is much discussion about the issues of Gateway, of using commercial launchers instead of SLS, of funding, and of the endless delays for SLS, of the management problems at SLS/Orion/Gateway. All these issues illustrate the hodgepodge and very disorganized project design that has represented SLS/Orion/Gateway from the beginning. SLS/Orion was mandated by Congress, with no clear mission. Gateway was tacked on later by NASA and the big space contractors building SLS (Boeing) and Orion (Lockheed Martin), with lobbying help from other international space agencies who want a piece of the Gateway action. None of it ever had a clear over-arching goal or concept related to the actual exploration of space. All of it was really only designed to justify pork spending in congressional districts.

As much as the Trump administration wants it, I do not see a path for its 2024 Moon landing. Congress, as presently structured, will not fund it, and SLS and Gateway are simply not the projects designed to make it happen.

The confusion at the hearings over Gateway also suggests that if this project gets going, it will only serve to drive a nail into the coffin of all American manned exploration, as run by our federal government. Too many vested interests are fighting over this boondoggle. In the end I think they will rip it apart and then reshape it into a Frankenstein monster.

The only hope for a real American vibrant manned space effort in the near future still appears to me to reside in the private sector’s own manned projects, which right now means SpaceX and its Starship.

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Israel election produces uncertainty again

Yesterday’s election in Israel, called because the leading block led by Benjamin Natanyahu could not form a majority coalition after the last election in May, has apparently resulted in a similar result.

I am still researching what I think might be the causes behind this on-going situation in Israeli politics. The article at the link describes some of the negotiations between the various factions that might produce a new Natanyahu government, or not.

My sense is that this situation all begins with the special exemptions to military service that still remain for the orthodox, or haredi community. The reason Natanyahu could not form a coalition in May was that one of his expected partners, a generally conservative but secular party dubbed Yisrael Beytenu, wanted a commitment to remove those remaining exemptions, and Natanyahu couldn’t get the various religious parties to go along.

As result, it appears that the religious parties lost some support in yesterday’s election, making it even harder for Natanyahu to make a deal.

I have asked some of my relatives in Israel if my analysis here makes sense, and am waiting a response.

Either way, it appears that no one is going to have an easy time putting together a government in Israel.

Update: This story from Israel tonight provides some clarity about the position of Yisrael Beytenu, stated by its chairman, Avigdor Liberman. In it he outlines his party’s demands, which do not just involve the special military exemptions for the haredi but also the power the orthodox have held in Israel over other issues.

“We will not concede on the passing of the Draft Law, as it was originally written, we will not concede on repealing the Supermarket Law, we will not concede on public transportation on Shabbat, we will not concede on civil marriages, and the introduction of core studies into haredi education. These are the conditions, and until we hear things in that spirit – there’s nothing to talk about.”

All of these cited issues involve the effort by the religious parties to exert more control. For example, the Supermarket Law, passed in 2018, gave the national government power to determine whether local businesses could be open on Shabbat (Saturday, the day of rest), instead of local bylaws. Similarly, issues of marriage and education all involved a conflict between the secular and orthodox communities.

Either way, Liberman will only join a coalition of all the secular parties, excluding both the Jewish religious parties and the Arab parties (dubbed the Joint List). To do this would require the two largest parties, the conservative Likud, led by Natanyahu, and the more liberal Blue and White, led by Benny Gantz to partner. Everything I have read suggests this will not be possible, as long as Natanyahu leads Likud.

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Fifty years of failed climate predictions

Link here. From the abstract:

Modern doomsayers have been predicting climate and environmental disaster since the 1960s. They continue to do so today.

None of the apocalyptic predictions with due dates as of today have come true.

What follows is a collection of notably wild predictions from notable people in government and science. More than merely spotlighting the failed predictions, this collection shows that the makers of failed apocalyptic predictions often are individuals holding respected positions in government and science.

While such predictions have been and continue to be enthusiastically reported by a media eager for sensational headlines, the failures are typically not revisited.

Many of these doomsday predictions have been previously documented by Tony Heller at his Real Climate Science website.

Much of the fault of these failed predictions falls to the media, which blindly hawks these predictions as if they were solid science, when most were merely political activism falsely dressed up as science. Predictions like this should almost never make the news. What should count are actual results, and data, showing something that is actually happening.

Unfortunately, our mostly liberal press has since the 1980s instead decided to team up with climate activists to push their agendas. Worse, though the examples at the link end in 2014, this journalistic malpractice still goes on today. Only three weeks ago Heller posted this story, Greenland Propaganda Meltdown, noting the errors and false claims in an August 20, 2019 Los Angeles Times that claimed “Greenland’s glaciers are melting.”

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IG had recommended criminal prosecution of Comey

The law is only for little people: In testimony today before Congress, Justice Department inspector general Michael Horowitz revealed that he had recommended criminal prosecution earlier this year against former FBI director James Comey.

The Justice Department however declined to follow through, essentially letting Comey off the hook.

In the past few weeks there have been many rumors about more criminal referrals by Horowitz in connection with his investigation into the illegal use of the FISA court by the FBI and Obama Justice Department to initiate spying operations on Trump during the 2016 presidential campaign. The conservative press has made much of those rumors.

To my mind, the rumors mean squat, just as Horowitz’s recommendation here against Comey. Until these corrupt officials are actually indicted, the IG can say whatever he wants, but nothing has been accomplished, and future federal employees will know that they can attempt a coup against legally elected lawmakers and face no consequences.

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New findings from Rosetta: Bouncing boulders and collapsing cliffs

cliff collapse on Comet 67P/C-G
Click for full image.

In reviewing the large image archive taken by Europe’s Rosetta probe while it orbited Comet 67P/C-G from 2014 to 2016, scientists have found more evidence of changes on its surface during its closest approach to the Sun, including a bouncing boulder and the collapse of large cliff.

The image on the right, reduced to post here, shows both wide (top) and close-up (bottom) views of the cliff collapse.

“This seems to be one of the largest cliff collapses we’ve seen on the comet during Rosetta’s lifetime, with an area of about 2000 square metres collapsing,” said Ramy, also speaking at EPSC-DPS today. … “Inspection of before and after images allow us to ascertain that the scarp was intact up until at least May 2015, for when we still have high enough resolution images in that region to see it,” says Graham, an undergraduate student working with Ramy to investigate Rosetta’s vast image archive.

“The location in this particularly active region increases the likelihood that the collapsing event is linked to the outburst that occurred in September 2015.”

These finds are only a sample of a number of similar discoveries since the end of the mission, as scientists pore through the more than 76,000 images in the Rosetta archive.

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Hayabusa-2 completes rehearsal for MINERVA-II drop

Hayabusa-2 has successfully completed its rehearsal for its planned drop of its last MINERVA-II bouncer/rover, releasing two reflective targets in order to track how they spiral down to the surface of Ryugu.

Hayabusa 2’s cameras will track the movement of the two navigation aids as they fly in space around Ryugu over the next several days. Scientists expect Ryugu’s tenuous gravity will pull the target markers to the asteroid’s surface within a week.

The release of that last bouncer is now expected in about a month. After spending time obtaining the data from that drop, Hayabusa-2 will then head back to Earth by the end of the year.

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Roscosmos knows but will not disclose cause of Soyuz drilled hole

According to a statement by Dmitri Rogozin, the head of Roscosmos, the Russians now know what or who caused the drillhole in a Soyuz capsule, found when air began to leak from ISS in August 2018, but they will not reveal that information.

What happened is clear to us, but we won’t tell you anything”, Rogozin said at a meeting with the participants of a scientific youth conference. … We may have some secrets”, he said.

I wonder if NASA will accept this decision. I also wonder why this doesn’t raise the hackles of NASA’s safety panel, which seems so willing to stall the launch of American manned capsules for far less worrisome safety reasons, thus forcing us to use Russia’s Soyuz capsule instead.

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SpaceX offers to buy all nearby property to Boca Chica launchsite

SpaceX has made a purchase offer to all the remaining property owners living in close proximity to its Boca Chica launchsite.

The company has sent a letter to all the owners, stating that the company is

…committed to a fair and equitable process for acquiring this real estate” and, to that end, the company hired an independent firm to appraise each property. … SpaceX is offering you three times the independently appraised fair market value of your property. The offer is good through two weeks from the date of this letter.”

It appears from the article at the link that a number of landowners are unwilling to accept this offer. It appears they to want more money, and also do not like the hard-nosed language of SpaceX’s offer.

Since there are not very many landowners, I would not be surprised if they team-up and get their own negotiating team.

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Scientists propose mission to interstellar comet Borisov

In a paper published on the Cornell arXIiv site for preprint science papers, scientists have posted a paper proposing sending an unmanned probe to the newly discovered interstellar Comet Borisov, arriving in 2045.

You can download the paper here. [pdf]

Their analysis found that we just missed the ideal and most efficient launch date using the Falcon Heavy. If it had launched in July 2018 a two-ton spacecraft could have reached Comet Borisov by next month.

The best alternative option is a launch in January 2030, flying past Jupiter, then the Sun, and arriving in 2045. Because of the mission’s close approach to the Sun to gain speed, the mission would require the type of shielding developed for the Parker Solar Probe. If the Space Launch System was used for launch, a six-ton spacecraft could be sent. With other available rockets the largest possible payload would be 3 kilograms (about 6 pounds), making the probe a cubesat. As they note,

Despite this very low mass, a CubeSat-scale spacecraft could be sent to the interstellar object. Existing interplanetary CubeSats (Mars Cube One) show that there is no principle obstacle against using such a small spacecraft to deep space.

In fact, having a decade and a half before launch guarantees that a cubesat will be able to do this job, because by 2030 the technology for using smallsats for this kind of planetary mission should be fully developed.

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